Modi makes up for missing leaders as BJP conclave starts in Goa

Panaji, June 7 (IANS) Marred by the absence of several senior leaders, including party stalwart L.K. Advani, the BJP’s key three-day conclave got underway in Goa Friday, during which the party will evolve a strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and possibly discuss its prime ministerial candidate.

Highly placed sources in the party said Advani may not turn up on Saturday either, even as party President Rajnath Singh had said Advani will come attend the national executive meeting.

The absence of the leaders was made up by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose arrival in Goa resulted in a section of the BJP leadership playing cheerleaders for him, even as party spokespersons tried to play down reports of a rift between the leadership over who should lead the party into the general elections.

Modi, as he entered the meeting venue at the Marriott Hotel here, was welcomed by loud cheers and slogans, a reaction that was not witnessed at the arrival of any other party leader. Party workers present at the venue shouted slogans hailingModi.

Reports of a rift in the BJP camp were further fuelled after a string of party leaders like Varun Gandhi, Jaswant Singh, Shatrughan Sinha and Uma Bharati, expressed their inability to attend the meet, some citing ill-health.

Advani failed to turn up at the extended meeting of office bearers due to ill-health Friday. According to sources, his family has called party president Rajnath Singh and said Advani may not attend the Saturday meeting either as his health did not allow this.

Rajnath Singh had earlier said Advani would be joining the meet Saturday.

Party leader Venkaiah Naidu advised the media not to “read too much” into Advani’s absence, while Rajnath Singh said: “Due to Advaniji’s ill-health, I told him not to attend the meet today. He will reach Goa tomorrow.”

The non-arrival of key leaders did not appear to dampen the spirits of the BJP, especially after the arrival of Modi at Goa’s Dabolim airport.

Insiders in the BJP camp, have tipped Modi to be appointed the head of the party’s campaign committee. A decision on this, which was likely to be taken Friay, has been deferred.

Asked if Modi’s likely ascendance was one of the reasons why key leaders from the Advani camp had stayed away from the meet, party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said: “There is neither a pro- nor an anti-Modi camp in the BJP.”

This, even as several BJP leaders, including Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, BJP vice president Smriti Irani, general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan and Balbir Punj have expressed their open support for Modi.

Pradhan’s support of Modi as a key leader for the polls was most emphatic.

“There is no doubt Modi is the best commando we have. In a war we use our best weapons and commandos,” Trivedi told IANS.

While BJP leaders have been showering praise on Modi and his potential to lead the party on the national stage, othes have lashed out at their over-enthusiasm.

“We don’t need Modi. There is no need to outsource leaders in Bihar. (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar is charismatic, popular and capable of handling everything,” Janata Dal-United (JD-U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told reporters in Patna, after BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy claimed that JD-U cadres felt that Modi’s charisma was needed to improve the its poll prospects in the Lok Sabha polls.

In New Delhi, Congress leader Rashid Alvi also took at dig at the BJP’s Modi mania.

“If BJP leaders are falling ill because of Narendra Modi, then the BJP must think what impact would he have on the nation. My full sympathies with those BJP leaders who aren’t well,” he taunted.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said that Modi was all about hype.

“Experience shows that whenever a lot of hot air is created about something, that balloon always bursts,” Pawar said.

The other items on the agenda Saturday are several resolutions ranging from issues related to national pride and security, among others, which will be passed by the members.

It will also pass resolutions on the manner in which corruption and malgovernance were eating into the national polity and how constitutional bodies were being tampered with to protect corrupt leaders in power.

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